As the minor leagues system winds to a close, it’s time to recognize some outstanding 2016 performances. While we could have gone three to four deep at each position, we looked at a combination of performance and upside in order to make our rankings of the top player at his position.
Jacob Nottingham was a big breakout in 2015, slugging .505 in 511 plate appearance while adding 17 home runs. Needing pitching, the Astros moved him in July to the A’s for Scott Kazmir and while Kazmir has been good, Nottingham could haunt them for years to come.
Runner Up – Willson Contreras (CHC, AA)
What didn’t A.J. Reed do? He slugged .602 across High-A and Double-A while hitting 37 home runs and driving in 127. Yeah, some of the damage was done in Lancaster, but he kept on mashing in Double-A. It’s not a great body, but he can really hit.
Runner Up – Bobby Bradley (Cle, A)
It took a couple of months for Yoan Moncada to get rolling but once he did, he showed the kind up talent that led the Red Sox to pay him a $31.5 million dollars signing bonus. He ended the year slashing .278/.380/.438 with eight home runs and 48 stolen bases.
Runner Up – Forrest Wall (Col, A)
Finally the Dodgers saw the light and promoted Corey Seager to the major leagues in September. In 550 plate appearance in the minor leagues in 2015, he slashed .293/.344/.487 with 18 home runs. Expect Seager to be starting in Los Angeles to begin the 2016 season.
Runner Up – Orlando Arcia (Mil, AA)
It was debatable who was more impressive in Greenville, Rafael Devers or Yoan Moncada. Playing the entire year as an 18-year-old, Devers showed good pop, slugging .443 with the ability to make very good contact. He’ll need to work on his approach, but everything is there for him become a star.
Runner Up – Richie Shaffer
It’s been about promise for the past three years with Max Kepler. This year, it was about production. In 112 games in Double-A, he posted a .942 OPS with nine home runs and 18 stolen bases while walking more than he struck out. While all the excitement in Minnesota has been about Sano and Buxton, don’t forget about Kepler.
Lewis Brinson struck out 191 time in 503 plate appearances as a 19-year-old in Low-A two seasons ago. This year, across three levels, he struck out 98 times in 456 plate appearances. What a transformation. While there is still a lot of work left to do, Brinson has star potential as a 20/20 performer playing a gold glove center field.
Drafted last year, Bradley Zimmer is making the minor leagues look pretty easy. In 127 games across High and Double-A, he posted an .814 OPS with 16 home runs and 44 stolen bases. While I don’t believe he’ll maintain the stolen base pace as he moves through the system, there is easy 20/20 potential.
Runner Up – Nomar Mazara (Tex, AA, AAA), Harold Ramirez (Pit, A+), Brett Phillips (Mil, A+,AA)
Blake Snell tore through three levels this year to post eye-popping numbers. In 23 starts, he won 15 games, posted a 1.41 ERA while striking out almost eleven per nine. While many wanted to see him in the majors to end the season, he still needs to work on his control and that combined with the Rays history of playing the Super-2 game, will peg his arrival to the major leagues to mid-June next year.
For my money, Alex Reyes has the highest upside of any pitcher in the minor leagues. The stuff is elite and he has the athleticism to eventually command it. Across High and Double-A, he struck out 151 batters in 22 starts while only giving up 6.2 hits per nine. While he needs more grooming, he’s not that far away.
Tyler Glasnow has the nastiest stuff in the minor leagues and at times, can be unhittable. In 22 starts across Double and Triple-A, batters only managed a .171 batting average and 6.3 hits per nine. He also struck out 11.2 batter per nine and improved his walk rate. He’ll be in the major leagues next year and while he will be inconsistent, is a guy that has a chance to pitch a no-hitter each and every time out.
Runner Up – Jose Berrios (Min, AA, AAA), Sean Newcomb (LAA, A, A+,AA), Steve Matz (NYM, AA,AAA)